The Mind-Eye Institute team consists of a group of very talented individuals with the shared goal of excellent patient care. Together, we bring a wealth of knowledge obtained through both traditional education and many years of “hands-on” experience in our respective fields.
As our contingent continues to expand, we look forward to exploring the talents and gifts of new team members to better serve our patient population.
Zemen S. Abebe, BSN, MSN
Zemen S. Abebe, BSN, MSN
Longtime administrator for the Chicago area’s NorthShore University HealthSystem, has joined the Mind-Eye Institute as its president, effective August 5th , 2019.
Abebe is not new to health practice administration. She has nearly 30 years of experience in nursing and hospital administration. Beginning in 2010, she served as director of perioperative services at Skokie Hospital, which is part of the NorthShore health system and located in Skokie, Illinois.
Among Abebe’s achievements in the directorship role have been the planning and organization of both a surgical pavilion and an orthopaedic and spine-focused hospital at the Skokie Hospital campus, building of strong physician partnerships, establishment of an orthopaedic trauma program, participation in product-value-analysis teams, management of hospital accreditation visits from the Joint Commission and development of a highly competent, specialized surgical team.
She also has worked as a clinical nurse manager, case manager and urology team leader at Glenbrook Hospital, another facility in the NorthShore University HealthSystem.
Deborah Zelinsky O.D.
Deborah Zelinsky O.D., F.N.O.R.A., F.C.O.V.D.
Deborah Zelinsky, O.D. is an optometrist noted worldwide for her work in neuro-optometric rehabilitation. Currently, she serves as founder and executive research director of The Mind-Eye Institute, based in Northbrook, Illinois. Her global reputation is due, in part, to her discovery of the use of eyeglasses to alter sound location and subsequent development of the Z-Bell Test℠. The patented test allows Dr. Zelinsky and her team to prescribe lenses and use other optometric interventions that balance processing of central and peripheral eyesight, while synchronizing the integration between auditory and retinal sensory systems.
The Mind-Eye Institute was created with the objective to make new science discoveries pertaining to eyes more accessible to patients both domestically and globally. Dr. Zelinsky’s vision is to train other eyecare professionals on enhancement of retinal processing using her patented methods, with a short-term goal to have accredited doctors practicing in most major population centers globally.
The 20/20 eye testing standard is over 150 years old and does not consider the peripheral processing or auditory integration both of which are critical. Dr. Zelinsky is pioneering a campaign to “Leave 20/20 in the 20th Century” and shift into a more updated assessment protocol including moving targets and overall awareness of surroundings. Using brain mapping of the retina (which is comprised of brain tissue) the optometric profession can perform brain, rather than eye, examinations. Patients needing this updated testing include those who have been diagnosed with a brain that isn’t functioning at its full potential. This includes a wide range of issues, including genetic mutations, autism, attention problems such as ADD and ADHD, dyslexia, learning problems, concussions, and stroke among others.
In addition to her work with the Mind-Eye Institute, Dr. Zelinsky is a fellow in both the College of Optometrists in Vision Development and the Neuro-Optometric Rehabilitation Association. She is a board member of the Society for Brain Mapping and a community leader for the Society of Neuroscience.
Daniel Myers O.D.
Dan Myers O.D.
An optometrist with clinical interest in the management of ocular diseases such as glaucoma, dry eye, eye irritations and disorders of the aging eye has joined the staff at the advanced Mind-Eye Institute, based in Northbrook, Ill.
Daniel B. Myers, O.D., who once served as an optometrist at Park Nicollet Methodist Hospital, a multidisciplinary teaching hospital in the Greater Twin Cities Area of Minnesota, says he is excited about his new responsibilities, which involve leading much of the clinical optometric services under the guidance of Mind-Eye Institute research director and founder, Deborah Zelinsky, O.D.
“I am here as much to learn and train as to provide patient care. That’s because the Institute is truly unique. The team here is doing some amazing, innovative work,” says Dr. Myers, referring to the Mind-Eye Institute’s mission of enhancing scientific understanding of how light entering through the retina can impact brain function, nerve pathways and body chemistry
By using prescriptive eyeglasses to manipulate the way light enters the eye, the Institute is helping patients overcome learning and behavioral disorders and recover from debilitating, life-altering symptoms of brain injuries.
While at Park Nicollet Methodist Hospital, Dr. Myers co-managed eye care for a high volume of patients, performing eye evaluations and examinations and addressing a variety of ocular disorders. Other experience includes service in a private family practice, Kennedy Eye Associates in Roseville, Minn., which specializes in general optometric care, and performance of optometric examinations in a boutique retail setting for SEE Eyewear in Minneapolis.
Dr. Myers also was managing optometrist for LensCrafters in Lincolnwood, Ill., after moving to the Chicago area from Minnesota in September 2017.
A graduate of the University of Kansas, Dr. Myers attended the University of Missouri-St. Louis where he earned his Doctor of Optometry. He later completed several externships, primarily in the St. Louis area in 2011 and 2012, gaining expertise in contact lens fitting, ocular disease management and primary care optometry.
His professional work includes membership in the American Optometric Association. He also has been very much involved in community service, participating for four years in Volunteer Optometric Services for Humanity. Through that organization, he spent time providing ocular care to patients in Colombia.
When not caring for patients, Dr. Myers spends his time with his wife and two young children. He also enjoys traveling abroad and experiencing unique cultures, as well as cheering for the University of Kansas Jayhawks football and basketball teams.
Carla D. Adams, M.Ed., O.D., FCOVD
Carla D. Adams, M.Ed., O.D., FCOVD
Optometrist Carla D. Adams, M.Ed., O.D., FCOVD, has now joined the Mind-Eye team. Dr. Adams is training in applying the advanced neuro-optometric rehabilitation techniques practiced by the Mind-Eye Institute and is seeing patients at both the Institute’s central clinic in Northbrook, Ill. and at her own practice, which has undergone a name change from Optique EyeCare to Mind-Eye Institute. The satellite office is located at 2435 Dean St., Suite C, in St. Charles, Ill.
Dr. Adams’ experience includes management of a variety of conditions, including strabismus (misaligned or “crossed” eyes), amblyopia (“lazy” eye), accommodative and convergence disorders and vision-related learning disorders. She also works closely with physical and occupational therapists, reading and education specialists, physicians and psychologists to ensure her patients receive an integrated approach to their health care.
In her new role at the Mind-Eye Institute, Dr. Adams is expanding her focus from “eye care” and 20/20 acuity testing to “brain care.” She is doing this by applying 21st century neuroscience research, showing how light can be used to affect brain functions. She is using therapeutic neuro-optometric methods on a very individualized basis in order to bring sensory systems into synchronization in each patient.
“Vision is a dynamic process that is learned and directly affects how we think, how we solve problems and how we feel,” says Dr. Adams, who graduated from the Illinois College of Optometry and earned a master’s degree in education from the University of North Florida. “Emphasis is not just placed on getting a patient to see 20/20, but also on how patients perceive their environment and how efficiently they use their eyesight.”
There are also visual skills that involve internal processes, such as mental organization and planning, which are used daily life. “People don’t realize how eyeglasses can affect how they think and feel in addition to how they see,” she reports.
Dr. Adams is a fellow in the College of Optometrists in Vision Development and a member of the Optometric Extension Program, National Optometric Association and the Illinois Optometric Association (IOA). She also is the speaker liaison for the Fox Valley Chapter of the IOA and serves on the auxiliary board for the Tri City Health Partnership, a clinic providing health care to families in need.
Jordan Bond joined the Mind Eye Institute Team in 2019 and has been an integral part of the patient experience as a New Patient Advocate. With a background in healthcare and hospitality, Jordan has always had a passion for helping people. Through his former experiences in nursing and working in hospitality, he has learned patience and empathy for others and tries to instill that in his daily work and overall life. He spent many summers volunteering for muscular dystrophy camp and continues to do what he can to support people in need in his community.
CJ Seestadt is a veteran of the United States Navy and a New Patient Advocate and Veteran Outreach Coordinator for our clinic. He has worked with our team to put together the veteran and military program now available at the Mind-Eye Institute. He is also a player and the Assistant Team Manager for the Chicago Blackhawks Warriors (The military veteran team for the Chicago Blackhawks). CJ is also a Blue & Gold Officer for the US Naval Academy and he is a member of the advisory board for Chicago Veterans. He works to use his experience as a veteran to bring as much attention to veteran suicide to reduce, if not eradicate, the 20 suicides that occur within our national veteran community every day.
As an ex-professional athlete, CJ’s personal experience with head trauma and his passion for helping those patients who have suffered head trauma and neurological issues has been helpful to the many patients that he works with in helping to identify the beginning of their journey to regaining the cognitive abilities that they once had and hope to regain.
Cathy Grochowski is an exceptionally blessed individual who has overcome a “mild” traumatic brain injury that was anything but mild… As a TBI survivor, she has overcome major adversity. Since her injury in 2015, she has been an advocate for brain injury survivors, and loves learning about neuroscience and brain-based learning. She is passionate about building awareness of solutions to TBI and other neurological challenges, as the journey can be incredibly exhausting and laden with frustration when a patient does not get the professional help they need.
During the past four years, Cathy has partnered with the Mind-Eye Institute on a variety of projects including assisting with training seminars, software platform integration, and staff training initiatives. Prior to taking on her newest role as a New Patient Advocate at Mind-Eye, she partnered with companies in the virtual and augmented reality industries, trained thousands of teachers to use SMARTboard technologies, she was a science teacher for 17 years, and she has been a semi-professional guitarist/vocalist at small venues and private events (check out her recordings on SoundCloud!)
Cathy's most important message that she shares with all individuals who have sustained a TBI, stroke, ABI or are struggling with processing, learning or other neurological concerns, is to NEVER GIVE UP. You very likely can gain significant improvements to functioning!
David was hired by the Mind-Eye Institute, after being asked to assist in preparing a Power Point presentation requested by Institute research director, Deborah Zelinsky O.D.; designing a temporary web site for the Institute; and then being invited to review Institute office operations.
His recommendations for improvement were so well accepted that he was asked to implement them as a full-time addition to the team. “He has built a wonderful camaraderie among the entire Mind-Eye team, with his infectious and charismatic personality,” says Dr. Zelinsky.
After graduating from Purdue University in 2013 with a degree in special education, David moved to Los Angeles, with the thought of playing guitar and singing. Instead, he landed a marketing job. He enjoyed marketing to the point where his father, Jim Smyth, who later became the CEO for the Mind-Eye Institute, asked David to return to the Midwest to assist him with his marketing needs. David moved to Chicago in 2015, working remotely on behalf of his Dad, who lives in Indianapolis.
David says his “dream” is to someday lead a non-profit institution dedicated to improving the educational system, using his background in working with special needs children. In fact, this interest in education is an important reason why David so much enjoys working for the Mind-Eye Institute.
“The Institute staff have a great deal of focus on helping learning-challenged children develop new skills,” David says.
Bertha Esparza is all-business. That is why the Mind-Eye Institute named her practice manager for the Institute’s two sites – in Northbrook and St. Charles, Illinois.
“My overall responsibility is to make sure the business operates efficiently,” says Bertha, who earned her associate degree in business management in 2018 from Rasmussen College in North Aurora, Ill.
For Bertha, “efficiency” means bills paid in timely fashion, claims filed, bank statements audited and reconciled daily, payroll reports and accounts receivables updated, necessary office and optical supplies purchased and delivered on time, new office staff recruited and trained, quality customer service protocols met, and staff requests for time-off and sick time properly managed. She even makes time to conduct staff meetings.
Bertha agrees the job requires a lot of multi-tasking, but she is up to the challenge, having previously served as a staff member and billing specialist for Optique EyeCare, which later became the St. Charles site of the Mind-Eye Institute. In fact, she spent a year studying medical billing and coding at the Everest College campus in North Aurora before moving on into business management.
When not keeping the Mind-Eye Institute running smoothly, she is working to keep her household running smoothly. That effort includes her husband and four children, ages 16, 14, 5 and 4. On those rare occasions when she is not waist-deep in responsibilities, Bertha can be found camping, watching movies, and traveling with her family.
She is even sometimes “up in the air” about her activities. “I enjoy parasailing and zip lining across landscapes,” she says.
Maria Palmerin is Mind-Eye’s Clinical Coordinator. Before becoming clinical coordinator Maria was an optometric technician who enjoyed working with children. Not a surprising finding, considering Maria managed free eye examinations in as many as 200 schools annually – preschool to high school — prior to joining the Mind-Eye Institute in July 2019.
“I started as an optometric technician for the company that provided the school examinations and then was promoted to field manager, working with about 40 different optometrists, each with his or her own style and method,” says Maria, who earned certification in California as a medical assistant.
Coming to Illinois from the West Coast – “I am still not used to the winters here,” Maria began work as a medical assistant for a pediatric urologist in Des Plaines in 2013 before moving on to the optometry field – and schools. But her work has not simply been confined to kids. She also formerly managed free eye examinations for residents of nursing homes.
At Mind-Eye, Maria is responsible for organizing and overseeing daily activities. Along with supervising and coordinating staff. She also manages patient flow; she makes sure the clinic runs smoothly and patients get seen on time.
When Maria is not working at the Mind-Eye Institute, you can often find her watching a baseball game. “Go L.A. Dodgers!”
Mely Peña calls the Mind-Eye Institute “a magical place,” primarily because of the positive changes that occur in patients’ lives when prescribed therapeutic “brain” glasses.
“I have never before been employed in a place where you can actually see major things happen in the lives of patients. That’s why I don’t want to stop working [for the Institute]. I love the patients who come here,” says Mely, who holds the title of Mind-Eye patient advocate.
A certified licensed practical nurse (LPN) who formerly cared for disabled and elderly patients at Chicago area nursing facilities and a teller for four years at Ban Industrial in Chicago, Mely joined the Mind-Eye Institute in 2016, initially serving as a front-desk receptionist for patients and visitors. Today, as a patient advocate, Mely is responsible for responding to patient queries, doing patient phone follow-ups, verifying appointments, processing payments and ensuring patients have the answers and information they need.
She attended Wilbur Wright College in Chicago before enrolling in St. Augustine College where she earned her LPN certification.
When not enjoying family time and caring for her daughter, Sophia, Mely does “a little shopping” as a stress-reliever in her spare moments.
Advocacy always has been Marlena’s career goal. It is the reason why she focused on criminology and social welfare and justice while attending Marquette University, where she graduated in 2019. The very definition of an advocate is one who supports something or someone for the common good. And, providing support for the common good is what Marlena is passionate about.
Before joining Mind-Eye, Marlena put her interest in mental health to use as a counselor for adolescents recovering from eating disorders. Now, as a patient advocate, that passion spurs her interaction with Mind-Eye patients, “many of whom have symptoms of PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), traumatic brain injuries and other neurological disorders,” Marlena indicates. And she calls it ‘fulfilling' when she is able to give hope and information to patients by phone or, when, at the front office counter, she can help patients, especially first-time patients, feel more comfortable about their visit to the Mind-Eye Institute.
For patients struggling with visual processing disorders, “a trip to the Mind-Eye clinic can be a draining process,” Marlena adds. “My goal is to make it at least a bit easier for them.”
When Marlena is not assisting patients, this Chicago resident enjoys drawing, sketching, and, yes, even playing a video game or two.
“I feel my work at the Mind-Eye is helping improve the lives of others. I am literally shocked every day by seeing how people’s lives have been changed for the better,” Marlena says.
A visual therapist at the Mind-Eye Institute since December 2019, she tells how she went into visual therapy practice “because I wanted to benefit people and, at the same time, work in a new and interesting field.” She especially enjoys going one-on-one with patients, “helping them meet the care goals that the doctors here have given them and that they have set for themselves.”
Not a surprising admission for a professional who has spent time as an intern working in a refugee settlement in Milwaukee, Wis., and served for nine months as a consultant on a research team for the Chicago-based Mom Project before joining the Mind-Eye Institute.
In her current role, she designs activities – both exercises and games – to help patients meet prescribed goals.
“What we are doing at Mind-Eye is not just eye care; it’s about maximizing patients’ brain potential,” says Nicole, who follows up with each of her patients during their return visit to monitor progress. “Are they seeing changes being made in their daily lives?” she asks.
A Carol Stream, Ill. resident, Nicole graduated from Marquette University in 2019, earning a bachelor’s degree in political science and psychology. During her free time, she enjoys reading.
Adam Zelinsky is taking the Mind-Eye Institute digital. That is why he has been hired as the office’s project manager.
“I am helping Mind-Eye transition from physical to digital documents and files and modernizing processes to create more efficiencies between departments,” Adam says. “These responsibilities are particularly important because our aim as an Institute is to expand substantially within the next couple of years.”
On the surface, this is seemingly quite a task, especially for a 2020 University of Delaware business graduate, who is holding his first full-time position after college. But Adam is far from ordinary. In fact, while at the university, studying in the entrepreneurship program and serving at the same time as an entrepreneurship ambassador, he began work, with several other students, on developing a start-up company.
And the company was gaining traction until it hit a wall – the COVID-19 viral pandemic.
“Our intent was to map large corporate, school and institutional buildings and create internal blueprints and floor plans that would allow occupants and first-responders to safely navigate them in times of emergencies,” Adam says. “In fact, our business plan for the start-up won several new-venture competitions. We developed a marketing program, with national branding and messaging, and even mapped out the cancer research laboratory at the University of Pennsylvania. We were in process of meeting with local, private school boards and building facilities managers when the pandemic hit.”
The pandemic put an immediate halt to the group’s efforts.
“Our efforts required the ability to access buildings in order to map them, but COVID-19 kept many of these buildings closed. We were forced to abandon our plans,” Adam says.
But closed doors opened new opportunities for Adam, who says he is excited about working to move an internationally recognized program like Mind-Eye to the next level of operations.
When not digitizing and modernizing, Adam enjoys watching and attending sporting events, kayaking, hiking, camping, and just “hanging out” with his family's new puppy.
Shanta admits she is determined to achieve whatever she sets out to do, which is exactly why she moved up steadily from the front desk at a general Chicago area optometry practice – Rosin Eyecare – to the role of optician and finally optician manager at Rosin. All this within a six-year time span.
But, for Shanta, that was not enough. When she learned about an available optician managerial role at the Mind-Eye Institute, she applied – immediately.
“I was intrigued. I checked the Mind-Eye web site and learned that working at Mind-Eye would give me an opportunity to go beyond the standard optometry practice where emphasis is on 20/20 central eyesight to one that uniquely tests for integration of central and peripheral eyesight and synchronization of eyes and ears.”
The problem: Shanta knew nothing about the peripheral retina. And that is exactly what she told Mind-Eye executive research director and founder Deborah Zelinsky OD in her job interview. But her lack of experience in the new optometric science did not deter the Mind-Eye team from hiring her.
“To just about every question Dr. Zelinsky asked me, I had to answer honestly, ‘I don’t know,’” Shanta says. But Dr. Zelinsky says Shanta impressed her during the interview and has good critical thinking skills. “Shanta considered every interview question very carefully before responding. If she did not have the necessary information, she said so,” Dr. Zelinsky recalls.
What impressed Shanta was the willingness of Dr. Zelinsky and the other optometrists on the team to spend the necessary amount of time to prepare and train her for her new role.
“I had two other job offers at the time. I accepted the Mind-Eye position because of the willingness of the team to invest time in me. Why go anywhere else?” Shanta says. In fact, during her first week of training at the Institute, “Dr. Zelinsky took an hour or more out of her schedule every day to go one-on-one with me. And the other optometrists, Dan Myers and Carla Adams, carved out personal time of their own to sit with me and teach me what I need to know.”
Shanta is not new to hard work. She served as a mail sorter for a bulk mailing house in Chicago while still a senior in high school in the early 1990s, eventually achieving the role of billing manager before the company closed its doors. She moved on to a receptionist position for Mac Properties in Chicago’s Hyde Park and then to the front desk at Rosin.
The rest is history.
When she is not achieving, Shanta enjoys some down time with her husband, Reuben, and dog, Rio, at their Chicago area home. She also likes to be active, working out and playing basketball. Yes, Shanta was a point guard on the women’s basketball team at her Chicago high school.
And she appreciates cars – classic cars, particularly. “My dream job – to be a mechanic,” she laughs.